Race Matters

Sunday, February 2, 2020
First Aired: 
Sunday, October 29, 2017

What is it

Started in the wake of George Zimmerman's 2013 acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has become a powerful campaign demanding redress for the mistreatment of African-Americans by law enforcement in the United States. But it has also inspired deep antipathy from those who claim it overemphasizes racial issues. So how much does – and should – race matter? Does #BlackLivesMatter speak for all black people? How should we respond to counter-movements like #AllLivesMatter? Ken and Debra discuss matters with Chris Lebron from Johns Hopkins University, author of The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea.

Listening Notes

Debra and Ken begin by debating the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the potential implications of its emphasis on race. Debra argues that racial inequality in the justice system is a disaster for everyone, and the focus should be on uniting people against a common cause rather than pitting racial groups against each other. Ken responds by arguing that such a view, encapsulated by the All Lives Matter countermovement, is problematic because it implies the existence of color-blind solutions to problems that are inherently colored by race. The Black Lives Matter movement is not about excluding others, he says — rather, it is about finally including black people in the notion of the collective “we.”

The hosts are joined by Chris Lebron, author of The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea. Debra poses the question of whether in order to make progress on the issues that the black community faces, it might be more effective to frame them in a more inclusive way. She gives the example of poverty as an issue that, while genuinely impacting black people, may best be dealt with through universal entitlement programs, low-cost housing, and better schools for everyone. Chris disagrees, arguing that the fundamental problem with race in this country has to do with value: black people are seen as worth less. When programs and policies that provide public goods on a more equitable basis are implemented, this value judgment finds its way back into these programs and policies, and black people are again edged out of their benefits. 

In the final segment, the hosts ask Chris how we can begin to move forward as a nation. They bring up the challenge of galvanizing support from outside the black community in order to grow the movement against racial injustice. Chris shares one potential method of framing the issue that might provoke change, which is to convey to white Americans the notion that to perpetuate racial inequity is actually to shortchange their own humanity. He then closes by pointing out the recent surge in racial resentment that has taken place, suggesting that the national conversation be directed from white privilege to white rage.

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 6:11) → Lisa Veale takes a closer look at the activism that has occurred in the wake of police shootings of black individuals, such as Anthony Lamar Smith and Michael Brown. She also examines some of the critiques of the Black Lives Matter movement that come from its sympathizers, concluding that the movement’s blatantly racial message both alienates some and and motivates others.
  • Conundrum: A former Peace Corps volunteer wonders whether her presence did more harm than good by raising expectations that might not be met.


Comments (7)

simka321's picture


Sunday, October 29, 2017 -- 11:41 AM

Black lives

Why does the class question take priority over the race question? Simple. If those who say that "black lives matter" don't actually matter to those who determine what matters, then does what those who say "black lives matter" really matter?

RepoMan05's picture


Sunday, September 22, 2019 -- 6:42 PM

Thats just a very long way of

Thats just a very long way of saying the BLACK lives matter movement is a bunch of racists. "BLACK lives matter" it's self evident. Why beat around the bush? Philosophical opinions dont need to be convincing. That's the realm of politics.

RepoMan05's picture


Sunday, September 22, 2019 -- 6:17 PM

The plain fact is, the whole

The plain fact is, the whole judicial system, not just cops, are just promotion point whores. They're the exact same people you'd be if you had their job.

If zimmerman did in the state of Florida vs George Zimmerman(in the death of Trayvon Martin) what kelly did in the state of Wisconsin vs Daniel Kelly(in the death of Austin Bodahl) it wouldnt have cost zimmerman his whole life. Kelly had a public defender.

When you're in a self defense case, "DONT TALK TO THE COPS!" Let your lawyer do his job, make it as easy as you can for your lawyer. They're not going to spend their own lives on you coming up with every last counter to all the ways the prosecutor is going to twist every last word you said.

Zimmerman wouldn't have even been charged.

Next, "race" is an equivocation fallacy created by the British for turning family into competition to justify nepotism and slippery slope for aristocracy. Everyone who uses the word race, is a racist. That means you op.

They knew you'd all get trapped in their little machination. British loyalists have been playing you all against eachother for the whole time america existed. They've been doing it for a very long time. You all get trapped in codification illusions and manipulated like muppets.

Lets see if you can grasp this.

In english, something you drink from is a cup, right? In spanish, something you drink from is a taza. So which is it? Is it a cup or a taza? Is it both? Or is it the real fact that it's neither and may just as well be an Aschenbecher?

Words do not exist. It is only our collective agreement that they have any meaning at all.

Race is not a real word. It is a fallacy.

Even "phenotypical traits" is a fallacy of averages. Every word in every dictionary is an argumentum ad populum fallacy reguardless of any other fallacy they are.

Subjectivity can never perfecly reflect Objectivity.

RepoMan05's picture


Tuesday, September 24, 2019 -- 6:24 PM

So, yeah. "Race" has

So, yeah. "Race" has absolutley no matter to it at all. "Race" is completely incorporeal.

Theres no starting gun and no finish line.

It's just 7 billion -1 idiot's who're really damn bored playing a self-serving aristocrat's game that was never there in the first place.

RepoMan05's picture


Saturday, October 19, 2019 -- 3:01 PM

Race only matters to

Race only matters to habitually fallacious dixiecrats.

RepoMan05's picture


Monday, November 18, 2019 -- 7:46 PM

If anyone remembers the first

If anyone remembers the first week of the Zimmerman debacle you'll remember the all the black and white rhetoric right from at the onset of the case. "Whites" everywhere were forced to point out Zimmerman is Hispanic, not "white." racism isn't going to end if "white" is the only "racial" group expected to have a conscience or intellectual consistency.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Tuesday, December 31, 2019 -- 7:19 AM

RM5 is gone. R.I.P.

RM5 is gone. R.I.P.

If he comes back I will rejoinder him. He goes too far, as is his wont with Zimmerman. Wonk Robert you thonk wrong. That is perhaps an untenable sentence... but ghosts can haunt as long as they don't howl.

The backlist of Philosophy Talk has the potential of life giving force. I hope someone hears the forest fall.


Christopher Lebron, Professor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University


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